In the scrum of reporters, lawyers and family members waiting to gain entry to federal Magistrate Michelle Burns' courtroom Monday afternoon in downtown Phoenix, one question was bandied about above all others.
Was Danny Hendon's name listed in the indictment?
Hendon is the owner of the Danny's Family Car Wash chain, which was raided Saturday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE took 223 workers and managers into custody, cut loose 179, held 30 on immigration violations, and criminally charged 14, though others may have been charged criminally as well, as you'll see.
But to answer the question of the moment: No, Hendon was not listed on the indictment unsealed Monday afternoon. Nor was he in court.
The indictment charged the various corporate entities that make up the Danny's Family Car Wash chain, and 14 assorted managers, with an assortment of federal charges related to "a conspiracy to employ unauthorized aliens."
A "DFC owner" is mentioned in one paragraph, but not by name.
A source close to the investigation indicated that ICE was reviewing the evidence culled from the raid on 16 locations of Danny's and the employment firm HR Betty, and that future charges may be coming.
(Note: HR Betty was not listed as a defendant in the indictment.)
I tried two numbers for Hendon. At one a woman answered, but she refused to take my name and number. At the other, I left a message for Hendon via voice mail. If Hendon returns the call, I'll update this post.
The government alleges that a 2010 federal audit of "current or recently-active employees" revealed that "approximately 50 percent of DFC's work force," that is, 942 out of 1,912 persons, had not provided proper paperwork at the time they were hired.
As a result, states the indictment, "On or around April 25, 2011, DFC's general counsel submitted a signed certification letter to federal authorities indicating that as of April 23, 2011, DFC had terminated the employment of all 942 employees listed..."
And that's when, according to ICE and the U.S. Attorney's Office, the conspiracy to rehire those individuals began.
The indictment reads:
"Soon after `terminating' the unauthorized employees in April 2011, DFC began rehiring many of the same individuals under new identities.
"In many instances, DFC's managers affirmatively assisted the employees in procuring identification documents and other personal identifiers that belonged to third parties (e.g., supplying employees with names, social security cards and numbers, and/or driver's licenses that belonged to others) to facilitate the rehiring "
The indictment details several incidents where managers allegedly helped and/or approved of unauthorized employees using the identities of others to work, sometimes going so far as to procure false identities and create false documents.
In one case, two managers supposedly took a photo of a wannabe worker, "electronically sending the picture to a document vendor."
Shortly afterward, the vendor delivered a fake driver's license and fake Social Security Card to a manager's home. The manager and the worker then traveled to an unnamed "professional employer organization," where federal I-9 forms and other employment forms were filled out under the assumed name.
In another case, one woman supposedly was using the fake identity of another. Then the true owner of the identity demanded that the worker stop.
The worker informed a DFC manager, who told her she could keep working by "borrowing" a stolen identity that DFC just happened to have on file.
The indictment also purports to have documents where a manager refers to an employee by his real name, while the employee continues to work under the name of another.
On and on it goes, and to tell the truth, it all looks very familiar if you are acquainted with some of the cases in Maricopa County Superior Court where undocumented workers have been charged with ID theft and held nonbondable for months on end.
Often there is evidence in these local cases pointing to possible culpability on the part of the employer. But Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigators have stated under oath that they do not investigate employers, only the workers, who are arrested whenever Sheriff Joe Arpaio does a worksite raid.
Asking that their names not be used, some family members of the accused told me before the hearing Monday that these unsavory hiring practices were well-known throughout the company, and that Hendon and other top DFC brass were in the know.
Earlier I spoke by phone with Adriana Lopez, who identified herself as a former Danny's cashier and an American citizen. She said one of the defendants, Juan Zarate-Carreon, is her fiance.
According to Lopez, Zarate-Carreon worked for Danny's for 15 years and has five children by a previous marriage.
Lopez said he worked as a manager at the Happy Valley location, and that Danny Hendon and other top DFC brass knew that he had been rehired after being fired as a result of the 2010 ICE audit.
She alleged that Hendon was aware the company was hiring undocumented workers.
"Danny is basically trying to blame all of his store managers for the hiring of illegal immigrants," she told me. "When in reality he knew everything that was going on."
I asked if Hendon visited the Danny's locations, such as hers, regularly.
"He was there every single weekend," she explained. "Fridays and Saturdays, he made his rounds. He knew full well what kind of operation he was running."
She said she didn't think it was fair to her, her fiance, or to her fiance's kids that her fiance was arrested, but not Hendon..
"Why was he not taken in?" she asked. "Why doesn't he have a warrant out for him?"
Lopez's fiance was one of a handful not released Monday.
The rest were ordered released on their own recognizance. Most were still wearing white or black Danny's work shirts as they faced the judge, their hands shackled to their waists.
Two men not listed on the Danny's indictment went before the judge, following a break in the proceedings.
Family members identified the men, Jaime Cuevas and Alberto Santos, as "regular workers," not managers. Both wore white Danny's golf shirts.
Santos was charged with illegal re-entry, Cuevas with using an ID unlawfully. Both were detained pending future hearings.
Outside the courthouse, relatives awaited the release of their husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles. A demonstration sponsored by the human rights organization Puente was winding down.
I asked Puente organizer Natalie Cruz about ICE's claim that it was only interested in the employer, not the workers.
"If ICE was going after the employer, they should go after the employer," she said. "They shouldn't have to detain 223 people to obtain information,or to obtain the people they were looking for."
She said she and others fear the raid was not a one-off, but the beginning of a new era of ICE raids on businesses, not unlike the ones Arpaio does.
"Now our community is not only going to have to be aware of Sheriff Joe's raids," she stated. "Now we're going to have to worry about ICE doing raids, too."
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